I was in prison and you came to me. Jesus stood up for those who were despised by the ‘respectable’, bringing light into the darkest of places – the woman caught in adultery who is about to be stoned to death, the corrupt tax inspector, the leper, sex workers…..
Many at the time were outraged by his association with such ‘unclean’ people. This is a view that has been repeated down the course of history; and yet time and time again true followers of Jesus have risen to champion the unpopular, and to build God’s Kingdom. Some, like Wilberforce, are household names, but there have been many others, whose names are unknown. The collective effect of these people on our society has been immeasurable.
As we know, Jesus’s teaching is needed now more than ever. We are living through times of great social change, with significant increases in wealth for some, but shocking poverty and lack of hope, opportunity and meaning for others. It is a sad fact that many of the people growing up in this wilderness end up in prison. These are people Jesus sees as lost sons and daughters. What are we doing to bring them back home?
In response to this challenge a number of Christians who work with offenders in the Bristol area have joined together to ensure that we are doing all we can to help prisoners, and especially ex-prisoners. The group is named SixtyOne – as we are inspired by these verses from Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”